WASHINGTON: Civil unrest exploded across America as a third day of protests in Minneapolis over the alleged daylight murder of a black man by a white police officer earlier this week spread to other parts of the country. The growing strife drew the attention of US President Donald Trump, who threatened to deploy the military to take control of the Democratic-run Minnesota in a politically surcharged season, warning in a tweet “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
The tweet was flagged by Twitter for “glorifying violence,” aggravating the already raging confrontation between Trump and social media giants, who he has sought to corral with an executive order on Thursday aimed at diluting their protection against lawsuits.
Protests have now spread to New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Denver and other cities even as what civil liberties activists describe as “lynching in broad daylight” and the subsequent conflagration in Minneapolis has ignited anger and passion on all sides of the racial divide. Blacks are convinced that the white police officer, identified as Derek Chauvin — who pressed his knee into the neck of the 46 year black male George Lloyd as he gasped “I can’t breathe!” – will walk free, even though he has been fired from the local police department. Whites for the most part are appalled at the scenes of violence and looting by young black men who have overrun the protests to indulge in a free-for-all.
President Trump took his own sweet time responding to the situation, and when he did, it was with a pair tweets laced with politics. “I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right,” the U.S President tweeted on Thursday, following it up with, “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
Amid another round of fury among many black activists who saw the use of the term “thug” as a thinly-disguised racial epithet, Twitter masked the President’s message, saying,
“This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.” The action further enraged Trump — who in the past has openly called for violence against protesters at his rallies – as he accused Twitter of targeting “Republicans, Conservatives & the President of the United States” while “doing nothing about all of the lies & propaganda being put out by China or the Radical Left Democrat Party.”
Lost in this political and ideological spat was the grim issue of black people dying from strong-arm tactics of heavily-armed and militarized police officers, an issue that has straddled several past administrations, including that of President Barack Obama. Civil liberties activists feel that the white dominated system allows white police officials to get away with murder, and President Trump’s race baiting and praise of men and women in uniform without seeking accountability has further emboldened them, due to what one commentator said is a “culture of contempt for black life at the highest levels.” Trump has been accused of praising and pandering to white supremacists, sometimes calling them “good people.”
Amid reports that there were already 18 complaints of strong-arm methods against office Chauvin, police in riot gear had to protect his home in Minneapolis from angry black protesters even as rioters looted stores elsewhere in the city. Arsonists also burned down a police department building even as the state’s attorney general said there would be charges against Chauvin and three police officers involved in the incident.